The US spends 45% of its discretionary federal spending on defense and war, and around us, the world burns in ways that have nothing to do with combat or the military. Global warming has escalated into a gigantic crisis. One in five people we know will die from heart disease. For the first time in decades, the opioid crisis is cutting life expectancy for Americans. There is a lot of tragedy, fear, and hardship all around us, but it has nothing to do with the need to build more bombs. However, it does have something to do with science.
Clearly the US should be doing something different instead of spending so much tax money on defense. We should consider halving that money and spending it on science, transforming America from a military-industrial complex to a science-industrial complex. Although scientific and technological advances over the past 50 years have greatly improved living standards around the world, the US federal government spends only 3% of its GDP ($205 billion) on scientific and medical research. Notably, this is far less than the $877 billion the US spent on defense this year.
The term military-industrial complex is famously named after former President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s farewell address, in which he warned that the United States and its economy could become a conflict-driven nation. More than 60 years after his speech, we have become like this. A Brown University study found that the U.S. has spent $5.9 trillion on wars in the Middle East and Asia since 2001. By comparison, the US National Institutes of Health (NIH) has a paltry $49 billion budget for 2023.
The United States and its military-industrial complex—including the Pentagon, CIA, foreign military services, Department of Homeland Security, nuclear program, and many other American defense tentacles—are committed to spreading democracy and keeping the world safe. More common foes than national security incidents, though, are sunburned cancers, Alzheimer’s diagnoses, and car accident deaths. Science has a good chance of solving almost any problem, including all of the above, given enough money and time for research and experimentation.
For example, new technologies such as bionic artificial hearts, 3D printed hearts or stem cell injections could virtually eliminate heart disease in the future. Each of these technologies is being researched and tested. But the current research is not enough, because it requires a lot of money, and private companies can only take so much financial risk without government assistance. Indeed, overcoming cardiovascular disease—the world’s number one killer, according to the World Health Organization—requires an all-out war on it, with governments leading the way through incentives, funding and collaboration.
I personally know the effects of heart disease. My father, Steven Gyurko, had four heart attacks before cardiovascular disease ended his life. However, it is not just the loss of loved ones that is painful. The enormous economic cost also hurts the United States. The CDC Foundation, a nonprofit established by Congress, reports that strokes and heart attacks cost the United States $1 billion a day in lost productivity and medical costs. Keeping people healthy should be a top national priority for many reasons.
I’ve never met anyone who didn’t like the idea of an SCI, so why doesn’t the US spend more time trying to become one? Economists argue that the military-industrial complex is necessary to modern American industry because it is so deeply woven into the fabric of our lives and culture. It turns out, however, that when you look to the future, it’s easy to imagine a healthy American economy that thrives on scientific and medical innovations, not bullets or belligerence. That’s because, as we enter the age of transhumanism – where medical technology, robotics, geoengineering and artificial intelligence increasingly overwhelm our lives and healthspans – we’re going to need more and more of all these gadgets , medical enhancement and green technology services to combat climate change. The new initiatives will impact the healthcare and science industries in the US and help them achieve substantial growth.
The United States and the rest of the world are on the brink of a new era in which modern medicine and technology will dominate our daily lives. Politicians on both the left and the right should consider diverting vast amounts of military funding to science, medicine, and health-span programs to accelerate this development. 95% of the world’s population suffers from health problems, and in the United States, 7,974 Americans die every day.
The constant real war in our lives is over our health. The military wars that the United States is planning or already waging should no longer receive such huge sums of money. Instead, more of America’s tax dollars should be spent on its own citizens, creating the science and technology that will allow us to live longer and better, with a constant promise of what America can actually do for its own citizens.
Zoltan Istvan writes and speaks on transhumanism, artificial intelligence, and the future.he is transhumanist betand the subject of a forthcoming biography by Dr Ben Murnane and Changemakers Books, Citizens of Transhumanity: Zoltan Istvan’s Quest for Immortality.
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own.